Edinburgh is a city known for its enchanting old town, rich history, and bustling cultural scene. But what many visitors don’t realise is that just north of the city lies a thriving waterside community that is full of great restaurants and amazing shops and bars: Leith.
Once the main trading port for the city in the 18th century, and the setting for ‘Trainspotting’, Leith has transformed into a cool neighbourhood that’s been dubbed the “Shoreditch of Scotland’s capital”.
Full of character, Leith boasts a unique blend of authentic Scottish tradition and international flair.
The main attraction to Leith is its restaurants and bars and so the best time to v visit Leith is at the weekend or in the evening. From casual street food to fancy restaurants, Leith offers some of the city’s best culinary experiences including restaurant Martin Wishart which is renowned for its tasty meals.
Below, I’ve picked out my favourite things to do in Leith which you should check out if you’re visiting Edinburgh.
How to get to Leith
Getting from Leith to Edinburgh’s centre is easy and even easier since 2023 now that the tramline has been extended. and reopened. You can simply hop on the tram in central Edinburgh and make your way to Leith.
The best things to do in Leith
There are plenty of things to see in Leith Scotland and this part of Edinburgh has a lot to offer if you’re looking for cool bars and delicious restaurants. While there isn’t really much of a Leith beach area (check out Portobello for that), there are still places to visit in Leith that’ll keep you entertained for half a day.
From the Leith docks restaurants to the shop in Leith Edinburgh, here are the best things to do in Leith in Edinburgh.
1. Grab a coffee at William and Johnson’s
If you’re a coffee lover, then a visit to William and Johnson’s is a must when in Leith.
This coffee shop, roastery, and art space are tucked away in a backstreet, and its flagship cafe invites visitors into an airy loft space to learn about the entire bean-to-brew process.
You can enjoy great quality coffee with perfect crema, and also meander the gallery space and gift shop.
2. Sample the most exciting new craft ales at Leith’s microbreweries
Leith is home to some of the world’s most exciting craft breweries. Thanks to the world-class brewing and distilling programme over at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh has experienced a renaissance in craft beer.
These beer artisans are dedicated to perfecting the classics and pushing boundaries, resulting in some delicious beers.
From Stewart Brewing’s taproom on the waterfront to permanent lines from Pilot’s brewery on Jane Street, you’ll be drinking top-quality craft beer all within a few streets of one another!
Alternatively, you can take a taproom tour in Leith where you’ll visit 3 brewery taprooms, and get 6 beer tastings plus 1/3 of your favourite beer style from each taproom you visit. Along the way, you’ll discover the story of Leith through food and drink from its gritty past as one of the world’s busiest shipping ports to one of Edinburgh’s coolest neighbourhoods.
3. Enjoy a nightcap at Smoke & Mirrors
No neighbourhood is complete without a quirky cocktail bar, and Smoke & Mirrors is that place for Leith.
This bar serves locally brewed beers and cocktails in a beautiful space with plenty of fairy lights which won me over.
Pull up a chair, settle in for the evening, and rub elbows with some of the trendiest locals (and their dogs!).
4. Live like royalty at Scotland’s only floating hotel
For a truly unique accommodation experience, book a stay at Fingal hotel.
This five-star hotel was once a Northern Lighthouse supply ship but has since been transformed into a luxury hotel with 23 discreet cabins, a fine dining restaurant, and a stunning ballroom.
Drawing on 1930s Hollywood influences and Art Deco touches, the polished accommodation offers stargazing decks too.
Each cabin is named after a lighthouse and features honey-hued wood and terrazzo-tiled bathrooms. It’s a great place for a special stay in Leith.
5. Experience the Custom House Leith
Located in the heart of Leith, the Custom House is a thriving showcase of the best contemporary creative talent.
Despite its grandiose classical architecture dating back to 1812, the space is dedicated to avant-garde art.
The sweeping halls host a range of events and exhibitions, from the Scottish International Photography Festival to workshops on upcycling and furniture-making.
Entry is completely free, and no need to book ahead. It’s a super cool place to check out during your visit to Leith.
6. Walk some of the Waters of Leith
For a peaceful and scenic walk that’ll feel like you’re not in the city, head to the Waters of Leith.
The pathway runs from the Pentland Hills to the port of Leith and is a much-loved place to walk for locals and visitors to Edinburgh.
You’ll see plenty of birds, interesting statues and more and it’s such a great place for a walk, run or cycle.
When we were living in Edinburgh for a while I often went for a run along the waters of Leith as it felt like being outside of the city!
7. Indulge in relaxed fine dining at Heron
For a fine dining experience in Leith, head to Heron.
This restaurant is the brainchild of two of Scotland’s hottest chefs, Tomás Gormley and Sam Yorke and has a farm-to-table style menu that changes every few weeks depending on what’s in season.
The restaurant is on The Shore in Leith in a beautiful Victorian corner building with a mellow and relaxed ambience.
8. Grab a bite at The Pitt street food market
The Pitt street food market injected a new lease of life into an old industrial yard and was even extended a few years ago since it was so popular.
When going to Pitt Street food market you’ll find good food, live music, and a great atmosphere in this super cool, graffitied space. It’s one of the best Leith things to do on an evening at the weekends.
The market is open from Friday through to Sunday and serves up Scottish street food with a creative twist.
9. Go shopping on Leith Walk
Leith Walk is probably the most famous street in the neighbourhood, connecting Leith to the rest of Edinburgh.
The pavement is lined with independent boutiques, quirky galleries, second-hand bookstores, and traditional pubs, making it the perfect place to shop for unique finds.
Record stores, 24-hour bakeries, modern art galleries, and timeworn Scottish pubs can all be found on the Leith walkway. Bookworms should check out the cosy Typewronger Books, and gift hunters should visit The Cat’s Miaou.
10. Shop at the Scottish Design Exchange
Located in Ocean Terminal, the Scottish Design Exchange is one of the best shops in Leith Edinburgh if you’re looking to pick up a few souvenirs from your travels to Scotland.
The concept store was originally opened to allow young art graduates to understand retail.
Now, still working with independent, Scotland-based artisans, the Scottish Design Exchange showcases the entire breadth and diversity of local talent, from jewellery and textiles to works by Scottish writers and musicians.
Owned and operated by the artists themselves, this shop is a must-visit for those looking for the best in Scottish design.
11. Take an afternoon stroll around Leith Links
On sunny afternoons, there is no better place to be than Leith Links, a large expanse of greenery in the heart of the neighbourhood.
When the weather is nice, the entire neighbourhood flocks to the Links, armed with beers and snacks, to make the most of the elusive Scottish sunshine.
While there, grab a coffee to-go from nearby café Rocksalt and wander through the maze of pathways which slice through the park.
12. Get your culture fix at the Biscuit Factory
Built in 1947 as one of the two Crawford’s biscuit factories in the Leith area, the sprawling Biscuit Factory is now home to a host of creative businesses and is the backdrop for Leith’s culture scene.
The Biscuit Factory has a gin distillery and an ever-changing studio space, with art shows, exhibitions, and immersive events often taking place.
13. Shop for local goods at Leith Farmers Market
If your trip to Leith happens to fall on a Saturday, make sure to head over to the Leith Farmers’ Market, which takes place every weekend by Commercial Quay.
It’s the perfect place to support Edinburgh’s local artisans and pick up a few local and international goods.
Whether you’re doing your weekly shop, or hunting down good for a picnic, the Leith Farmer’s Market is a great place to go.
From meats and cheeses to upcycled jewellery and watercolour portraits, the Leith weekend market is the perfect place to check out for a sense of the area.
14. Enjoy fresh seafood at Fishers on the Shore
The Ship on the Shore is a must-visit destination for seafood lovers in Leith. Fishers of Leith is in a 17th-century building that has been beautifully restored to retain much of its original charm and its menu features a range of fresh seafood dishes, including lobster, mussels, and oysters. If you love seafood you simply can’t miss it!
15. Take a morning walk along The Shore
Walking along the shore in Leith is a must-do activity when visiting this neighbourhood of Edinburgh.
The Shore is a peaceful area where you can walk along the water and admire the boats moored in the river and stop at some of the popular seafood restaurants that line the waterfront.
As you stroll, you’ll also pass by historic landmarks, such as the Victoria Swing Bridge.
16. Get competitive in the Brass Monkey’s pub quiz
Leith Depot is a popular neighbourhood pub that is well-known for its lively atmosphere and a fantastic selection of craft beers.
The pub also hosts a weekly quiz night every Wednesday, which is a great way to test your knowledge on a fun evening out and one of the most quintessentially British things to do as well as one of the more unusual things to do in Edinburgh.
The quiz covers a range of topics, from general knowledge to music and pop culture, so there’s something for everyone to participate in.
17. Experience the best of Scottish cuisine at The Kitchin
For a taste of authentic Scottish cuisine, head to The Kitchin. This Michelin-starred restaurant is owned and run by renowned chef Tom Kitchin, who is dedicated to using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients in his dishes.
The menu features a range of traditional Scottish dishes, including haggis, venison, and Scottish salmon and has a fantastic selection of wines and whiskies, making it the perfect destination for a special occasion or romantic evening out.
18. Board the Royal Yacht Britannia
Once the home of the Queen and her family for over four decades, the Royal Yacht Britannia now welcomes visitors from around the world and is one of the top Leith attractions.
This floating home sailed over one million miles and entertained numerous world leaders, celebrities and members of the Royal Family. Discover the Royal Apartments, where the Queen would take her tea, and see where Prince William and Prince Harry spent their summer holidays.
You can also enjoy afternoon tea onboard the yacht which is a pretty special experience.
The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of Leith’s most popular attractions and a must-visit for anyone interested in history and the Royal Family.
19. Unleash your creativity at Out of the Blue Drill Hall
Located in a renovated Victorian army barracks, Out of the Blue Drill Hall is a vibrant creative hub that hosts regular art exhibitions and workshops, as well as a variety of events like ping-pong tournaments, flea markets and film screenings.
This art centre in Leith is dedicated to fostering artistic expression in Edinburgh and beyond and is a great embodiment of Leith’s fun-loving spirit.
20. Breakfast at Mimi’s Bakehouse
Stop by for breakfast at Mimi’s Bakehouse on the Water of Leith walkway and savour their wide range of breakfast options, along with a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. Each morning, the freshly baked goods are made in-house at The Shore location and you won’t be able to resist them when you walk past.
For those with a sweet tooth, the French toast is a must-try, while those who prefer savoury dishes will relish in the three-cheese macaroni.
21. Gaia Deli
This tiny Sicilian-run café, Gaia Deli, is on Leith Walk and has a huge reputation for its tasty freshly made sandwiches and paninis.
With its lemon-yellow storefront and colourful cushion collection, Gaia is hard to resist, especially when you get a whiff of the coffee!
22. Teuchters Landing
Teuchters Landing is the ideal place to head for a pint in Leith Edinburgh. Right by the Leith waterfront and with a beer garden overlooking the Water of Leith, it’s a super popular place in the summer.
23. Raise a glass at The Shore Wine Café
This wine café is a great place for Mediterranean-style sharing plates in the afternoon and evening.
The deli counter is brimming with cakes and pastries, and you can sample wines from around the world. Whether you’re an aficionado or a novice, there’s something for everyone at The Shore Wine Café.
24. Sip a cocktail at The Barologist
For a slightly more upscale night out in Leith, head to The Barologist, known for its extensive cocktail menu.
The fun décor and the unique cocktail menus – one for each season – guarantee you’ll have a great time.
25. Indulge in Mediterranean flavours at La Casa
Decorated with intricately-patterned tiles and gnarled olive trees, La Casa combines Spanish and Greek cuisines to create one all-encompassing Mediterranean menu.
Grab a jug of sangria to share with your friends and enjoy some of the best food in Leith.
26. Eat at Michelin Star restaurant Martin Wishart
When it comes to where to eat in Leith, you’re truly spoilt for choice.
Restaurant Martin Wishart in Leith, Edinburgh, is a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its delicious food designed by Chef Martin Wishart.
Using the finest seasonal and locally sourced Scottish ingredients, the restaurant on the Leith waterfront setting is highly recommended.
It’s the perfect combination of innovative cuisine, sophisticated ambience, and outstanding hospitality that makes Restaurant Martin Wishart a must-visit location in Edinburgh.
Is Leith worth visiting?
While there are a lot of fun things to do in Leith, I’d say it’s only worth visiting in the evenings or for a special meal out at one of the restaurants. The first time we visited was during the day, midweek and the place was deserted and left me wondering why so many people spoke so highly of this part of Edinburgh.
When we went back a second time I was much more impressed – it probably helped that the weather was nicer too!
If you only have one day in Edinburgh, I wouldn’t recommend Leith as a must-do activity. However, if you’re staying. in Edinburgh for multiple days and want. a nice meal, or to check out some cool bars then it’s well worth visiting.
Final thoughts on Leith in Edinburgh
Leith in Edinburgh is a lively part of the city that offers a range of exciting activities and sights.
From the historic Royal Yacht Britannia to the bustling docks of the Shore, visitors can explore the area’s rich history and culture.
The main reason to visit Leith is to check out the excellent Leith restaurants including those with Michelin Stars. Their menus are based on locally sourced ingredients including seafood and international cuisine.
Leith is also home to several art galleries, independent shops, and great markets, making it a fun place to visit in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.
FAQs about visiting Leith and what to do in Leith
How do I spend a day in Leith?
There are plenty of things to do in Leith to fill a day. You could start by visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was once the Queen’s floating palace. Then, take a stroll around the docks at the Shore, which is home to a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
What is Leith famous for?
Leith is famous for its rich maritime history and industrial past. It was once a bustling port and shipbuilding centre and played a significant role in Scotland’s economy. Today, it is a vibrant and eclectic neighbourhood known for its art scene, restaurants, and independent shops.
Is Leith a nice part of Edinburgh
Yes, Leith is a nice part of Edinburgh. It has undergone significant regeneration in recent years, transforming into a trendy and lively neighbourhood with a community feel. The area is also well-connected to the rest of the city, making it easy to explore all that Edinburgh has to offer.
Last Updated on April 18, 2023 by Hannah
Hannah started That Adventurer after graduating back in 2013 and has documented all of her adventures since then. From backpacking South America to city breaks in Europe, a 3 month road trip across the USA in a self-converted van and 6 years living in Canada, you’ll find posts on all of this.
Hannah specialises in active travel and on That Adventurer you’ll find hiking, walking, biking, skiing and all sorts of active travel guides to allow you to see a destination in an adventurous way.